KPMG report - review of Committee of Adjustment

KPMG review of the Committee of Adjustment – some concerns require additional action

The KPMG report states that “concerns have been raised by a number of stakeholders that the process is too complex and inaccessible for many users. Some users have expressed lack of confidence and satisfaction in the process and do not believe the current practice consistently delivers quality decisions. Further, there have also been concerns raised about the public’s ability to effectively participate in the public hearings, both in the traditional in-person model and in the virtual hearing model introduced in 2020.”

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City of Toronto Application Centre web page

FoNTRA proposes technology improvements in the AIC, Notification Service and new Reporting in response to Bill 109 Report

FoNTRA praises the efforts of the City Planning Division and other City staff to respond to the challenges posed by Bill 109 and its adverse effects on citizen participation in planning issues in Toronto. The proposed process changes have the potential to effect both an increase in review efficiency and an improvement in information availability. The challenge will be to implement these improvements within the very limited application review time permitted by the Provincial Bill.

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Committee of Adjustment Feedback

The City of Toronto is conducting a review of the Committee of Adjustment. Led by the City Planning Division, the objective of the review is to improve effective participation in the public hearing process. A third-party consultant, KPMG, was retained to carry out the work.

KPMG has already begun work on this project including two feedback sessions held on June 2nd and June 13th with residents’ associations invited to attend. We understand that about 30 residents’ associations participated in these sessions.

FoNTRA has completed some research work related to this subject and has created three reports…

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View of downtown Toronto west, towards Toronto Islands

It’s time to free Toronto from the Ontario Land Tribunal

This is to express our qualified support for the Motion:

  • that City Council request the Province of Ontario to dissolve the Ontario Land Tribunal and replace it with a true appeals body that only grants hearings based on an error in law or procedure.

We set our qualifications below.

The Ontario Land Tribunal is an unelected, unaccountable quasi-judicial body that has the “final say” over planning matters in Toronto and across Ontario.

The current Provincial government has (1) amalgamated the former five separate tribunals into one – the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) and (2) given it “final say” powers, reversing the advisory (to municipalities) powers given to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) by the previous government. And procedural changes have reduced the involvement of participants in the hearings.

As a result it appears that the OLT is more politicized, more distant from the concerns of regular people, and less knowledgeable of land use planning than ever.

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TLAB Virtual Business Meeting, December 10, 2021

We offer the following comments and suggestions regarding the above noted items:

34.2 Public Guide Revisions 

We view the Public Guide as an important contribution to public education especially as it relates to self-represented parties and/or parties appearing for the first time at TLAB.

The Public Guide Revisions include both revised material and several new sections including Adjournment Requests, Motions, Affidavits and Recovering Hearing Costs.

We would like to provide feedback on several of the new areas covered in the Public Guide Revisions.

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Committee of Adjustment Status Update

This is to express our interest in the information provided in the above noted report, and to remind staff of the reasons why the review was initiated.

This report provides an update to Planning and Housing Committee, and City Council direction, further to a City Planning report titled Update on Committee of Adjustment Virtual Public Hearings, dated April 6, 2021. An independent consultant is being retained to review the End-to-End Review of the Development Review Process Final Report, dated August 15, 2019, as it applies to the Committee of Adjustment, as well as additional matters associated with virtual Committee of Adjustment public hearings.

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TLAB Panel Training and Education Session

This is to provide our comments and suggestions with respect to the above noted agenda item, which will be held In Camera, as permitted by the TLAB’s Procedural By-law 1-2017.

FoNTRA commends the TLAB in its efforts to promote and enhance public understanding and education regarding its mandate and role in the City’s Land Use Planning system. These efforts include Public Business Meetings, annual reporting to the Planning and Housing Committee, and publication of the Public Guide, and website. We recall for example a Public Business Meeting held in Scarborough on February 10, 2017 which was well attended by stakeholders, including RAs. The Meeting included presentation materials by Klaus Lehman, Zoning Section, City Planning, which were made publicly available, and which continue to be referred to by RAs.

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TLAB – Chair’s Annual Report

Given the number of Committee of Adjustment applications in our members’ neighbourhoods, many residents and residents associations have been actively involved in TLAB appeals since its inception in 2017. The TLAB appeal process is important to residents as it greatly affects their homes and the character of their neighbourhoods,

We appreciate the comprehensive review and report by TLAB Chair, Dino Lombardi. However, it is apparent that while the report reports on various matters related to the ongoing operation of the TLAB, it fails to look deeper into some of the matters that concern residents. TLAB Public Business Meetings have been established, but these are largely ineffective as mechanisms to provide input from residents. Procedure and rules continue to be added to the processes without effective input from residents.

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Update on Committee of Adjustment Virtual Public Hearings

FoNTRA has been active in bringing forward the concerns of residents across the area about the Committee of Adjustment, and interrelated processes in residential infill, such as neighbourhood planning guidelines, zoning review, TLAB appeals, and construction issues.

The Report responds to City Council direction and requests related to the COVID related measures taken by City Planning in the past year, which focus on four operational matters: application volume; staffing and panel member capacity; public notification improvements; and participation at virtual public hearings. The Report’s basic message is all about efficiency in handling volume, not about making decisions that are fair, that are based on input from neighbours, and that respect and maintain neighbourhood character. 

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TLAB Annual Report and Evaluation Process

Minutes of the December 2, 2020 meeting are not posted, but we recall the Past Chair Ian Lord saying in that meeting that he would respond to FoNTRA’s correspondence regarding the TLAB Annual Report. However, FoNTRA has not received the promised response.

FoNTRA’s submission (as quoted from our correspondence) is as follows:

“Given the importance of the Chair’s Annual Report in providing for transparency about TLAB’s operation and results, we suggest that the TLAB Annual Report be formally received and approved at a Business Meeting. This could be established as a procedure or “rule”. Assuming consideration of the item occurred in open session, this would allow an opportunity for input and deputation by all stakeholders, such as residents associations, on matters raised by the Report”.

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TLAB Chair’s 2019 Annual Report

We appreciate the comprehensive review and report by Ian Lord, TLAB Chair. However we feel that while the report raises various matters related to the ongoing operation of the TLAB, it fails to look deeper to the workload generative issues that lie behind some of the issues raised.

Residents play a key role in the operation of the TLAB and need it to operate in a way that is fair to them. TLAB operates largely without input from residents. TLAB business meetings have been established but these are largely ineffective as mechanisms to provide input from residents. Procedure and rules continue to be added to the processes without effective input from residents. (See attached) Given that the appeal process is important to residents as it greatly affects their neighbourhoods, we play close attention to how TLAB is operating and see how it is unfair to residents.

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Committee of Adjustment Virtual Hearings prompts concerns from Residents Associations

As you know, we supported virtual hearings for applications based upon your commitment that these hearings would be used for applications with (truly) minor variances. We have been increasingly concerned that complex applications with many variances, and multiple community objections are being heard in virtual hearings. In addition:

  • the revised timeframes limit the opportunity for comments to be submitted both in writing and orally;
  • written comments are not being posted in time for them to be part of the Committee members deliberations;
  • participants who registered to speak to the Committee are not being allowed in/heard from;
  • participant’s objections are being disregarded by the Committee of Adjustment; and
  • members of the Committee are not acquainted with the tests and/or overtly deny the tests as laid out in the Planning Act and in the public notice.

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TLAB: improving resident participation in new policy initiatives

The agenda for the meeting included a couple of new initiatives: Draft Practice Direction 6: Expert Witnesses, and Evaluation Form). We were pleased that the Chair was willing to allow enough time to hear from residents’ representatives as well as to allow for a fulsome discussion among some Members. However in the end we feel that a multi-step approach to developing and approving such policies is required in order to achieve the best results. We suggest that, at a minimum, an initiative should go through two readings, with an initial meeting to present a proposal and gather stakeholder input, followed by a second meeting to present and receive input to the TLAB on a revised proposal. We suggest the Board might consider organizing the first meeting with mixed stakeholders so that there is an opportunity for enhanced understanding, perhaps with independent facilitation.

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Committee of Adjustment Applications Analyses and Service Improvements

FoNTRA is pleased to see the staff report outlining various application analyses and service improvements over the past two years.

While some process improvements, including efforts to standardize procedures across all four districts, have been accomplished, the overall question remains – are Neighbourhood Planning (City Planning), the Zoning By-law (City Planning), the Committee of Adjustment (City Planning), administration of the Zoning By-law (Building) and Building Permit issuing (Building) producing outcomes intended by the Official Plan?

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End to End Review of the Development Review Process

The staff report describes the results of a consultant lead process to re-engineer the Development Review Process. The report references the need to hire staff to implement the Review’s recommendations over a number of years. In the end, the staff report merely recommends that the report be received.

For the record, FoNTRA has, over several years, been engaged in discussing concerns about the current processes with City Planning staff and earlier this year submitted a proposal for an End to End Review focused on Committee of Adjustment and LPAT, which are part of the Development Review Process that is much in need of review (see Attachment).

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“Minor” Residential Planning and Development Decision-Making in Toronto

This report outlines issues related to the Toronto Zoning By-law 569-2013 and the Toronto Committee of Adjustment’s handling of severances and minor variances related to residential land use planning and development.

City Planning and Toronto Building are both involved, but, rather than operate sequentially, they interlock:

  • Zoning By-law development and management is the responsibility of City Planning
  • Management of the Committee of Adjustment is the responsibility of City Planning
  • Intake, Review and Acceptance of Committee of Adjustment applications, and Zoning Examination Reviews (by-law administration) are the responsibility of Toronto Building.

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Committee of Adjustment – Panel Size and Structure

This communication is in support of staff report recommendations:

  • to increase the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) membership from 30 to 35 members, with two of the additional members assigned to the Toronto and East York (TEY) district and three to the Etobicoke York (EY) district;
  • that panel members be assigned to a district rather than a particular panel within a district.

We have no comment on the other administrative changes proposed.

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